From theBEnote.com …
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have faced three days of bomb threats in just one month. The latest series of threats occurred on the first day of Black History Month, and involved 13 different HBCU institutions in just that day alone. While, thankfully, no explosive or hazardous materials have been found and there are no reports of casualties, the entire HBCU community - as well as the broader Black community - is clearly shaken. Still, these communities are not deterred in their efforts to continue strengthening the oldest and most essential higher education institutions for Black people in the nation. Indeed, HBCUs are engines for Black success: they have always been core pillars of Black community support, empowerment and achievement.
What these latest threats will do is place a spotlight on the current state of HBCUs and an assessment of where they are in contrast to their better-resourced PWI or “Predominantly White Institution” peers in the higher education space. While Education Secretary Miguel Cardona’s tweet of support on Tuesday is appreciated …
… it still leaves wide open questions surrounding the Biden administration’s next big plan to follow through with bold pledges and proposals to substantially fund HBCUs. Thanks to Congress and, in particular, both the unwillingness of any Republican and one lone Democratic Senator Joe Manchin to negotiate an acceptable Build Back Better legislative package, the funding promises secured for HBCUs have been indefinitely stalled. Ironically, the state Manchin represents holds one 1890 Land Grant HBCU: West Virginia State University.
Perhaps the renewed interest in HBCUs, while grim, can force policymakers to recharge efforts for ambitious investments in those institutions. Manchin has recently reiterated that Biden’s signature Build Back Better plan is “dead.” Interestingly enough, he said that about the legislative package designed to provide historic federal investments for HBCUs on the first day of Black History Month and just as 13 HBCUs were being locked down due to bomb threats.
Still: President Biden and other Senate Democrats have floated the prospect of moving forward with BBB by breaking it up into legislative pieces. Or: passing each component of the bill one piece at a time.
If that’s the case, advocates for HBCUs need to immediately seize this moment of media focus on their institutions as an opportunity to revive their funding needs. Yes: HBCUs are currently targets of domestic terrorists, but they have also been historic targets of systemic racism, hostile policymaking and ruinous underfunding on the state and federal level. Now would be the time to correct that legacy and make these institutions whole.